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This Year’s Flu Season, and What It Means for the Future

The flu season started a bit later than it had during the previous three flu seasons. The season also peaked later than usual and activity remained elevated later than in previous seasons. While H3N2 viruses predominated early in the season, H1N1 viruses were the most common in later weeks and were now the predominant virus for the season. The H1N1 is the virus that emerged in 2009 and caused a pandemic. In the past, H1N1 flu viruses have caused severe illness in some children & young and middle-aged adults. While there were reports of severe flu illnesses and deaths in the past season, overall the season was been milder than the previous three seasons and severity indicators were not excessively high

Is the United States having a flu epidemic?

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year. This time of year is called “flu season.” In the United States, flu season normally occurs in the winter.  Flu outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May. According to the CDC, the flu season begins when certain key flu indicators (for example, levels of influenza-like illness (ILI), hospitalization and deaths) rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks. Usually ILI increases first, followed by an increase in hospitalizations, which is then followed by increases in flu-associated deaths.

What should I do to protect myself and my loved ones from flu?

Get vaccinated, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.  Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, and their close contacts. If you have a loved one who is at high risk of flu complications and who develops flu symptoms, encourage them to seek medical care. He or she may benefit from treatment with influenza antiviral drugs. People who are not at high risk for serious flu complications who get the flu may be treated with influenza antiviral drugs at their doctor’s discretion, but those at risk for complications should be treated as quickly as possible. Children between 6 months and 8 years of age may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected from flu. The two doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart. Your child’s doctor or other health care professional can tell you whether your child needs two doses. If your child does need two doses of vaccine to be fully protected, it is a good idea to begin the vaccination process sooner rather than later.

Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from the flu.

In addition to getting vaccinated, you and your loved ones can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

When should I get vaccinated?

The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against flu soon after the vaccine becomes available, if possible by October. If you aren’t able to get the flu vaccine by October, don’t worry – the CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination as long as influenza viruses are circulating.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu, so don’t delay and be sure to prepare yourself and your loved ones from the flu.

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